Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life

Jeannie Williams

Published by University Press of New England, 2007
ISBN 10: 1555536743 / ISBN 13: 9781555536749
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Synopsis: During his extraordinary career, the now-legendary Canadian tenor Jon Vickers sang the most demanding of operatic roles -- Tristan, Peter Grimes, Otello, Aeneas, Parsifal -- with searing emotional intensity and dramatic interpretation. In this first biography of Vickers, Jeannie Williams provides a captivating and revealing portrait of a very private, deeply religious man and complex artist who baffled and often enraged his friends and colleagues.

Drawing on scores of interviews with those who knew and worked with Vickers, Williams traces his life from boyhood in western Canada, to schooling in Toronto, to his debut at Covent Garden, to his tenure at the Royal Opera House, to his celebrated appearances on the world's major opera stages. She discusses his signature roles, including details of a little-known Otello in South Africa, over-the-edge performances, and stormy battles with conductors and directors. In addition, she details Vickers' controversial withdrawal from the Tannhuser opera, his on-going friction with BBC-TV, his conflicted relationship with his native Canada, and his choices in repertory. Williams also illuminates the paradoxes in the world view of a man who might have been a preacher or a prime minister if he had not been blessed with such a remarkable musical talent.

This in-depth, well-balanced, and objective biography will stand as the definitive work on one of the world's greatest heroic tenors.

Review: Although Jeannie Williams was not able to get cooperation from Jon Vickers for her biography of the tenor, he should hardly be displeased with the result. Whenever she touches on the big battles Vickers fought in the opera world--and there are many, from an early dispute with BBC television that simmered for decades, to touchy relations with the Bayreuth Festival that restricted Vickers's appearances to just two summers, to his famous withdrawal from engagements as Tannhäuser--Williams is scrupulous in her presentation of every aspect of the dispute. What emerges from this life story is a great artist who is surprisingly simple, true to his beliefs from the very start, and dispassionately aware of the value of his gifts. Williams gives us a man who encompasses three of opera's most demanding roles (Otello, Tristan, and Aeneas in Les Troyens) in one season at the Metropolitan Opera, then is asked to stand by for Placido Domingo as he toys with Aeneas in the Met's centennial season. Lack of respect in his native Canada is a recurring theme: the great Tristan shares the bill with Phil Silvers at the Canadian National Exposition, and a fitting farewell tour is sabotaged by the Canada Council.

Because she must rely on published interviews, Williams is constricted in her analysis of how Vickers developed his highly individual interpretations of his roles. Tellingly, a singing actress who could meet Vickers on his own terms, Teresa Stratas, offers the most revealing descriptions of how the singer worked. Through accumulation of details (Benjamin Britten twice walked out on Vickers's Peter Grimes; elsewhere we learn that Vickers found embellished Handel "old fashioned"), Williams gives us a sense of what made Vickers wild and gripping onstage. Birgit Nilsson contributed the lovely foreword. --William R. Braun

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Title: Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life
Publisher: University Press of New England
Publication Date: 2007
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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Book Description Northeastern University Press, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. During his extraordinary career, the now-legendary Canadian tenor Jon Vickers sang the most demanding of operatic roles -- Tristan, Peter Grimes, Otello, Aeneas, Parsifal -- with searing emotional intensity and dramatic interpretation. In this first biography of Vickers, Jeannie Williams provides a captivating and revealing portrait of a very private, deeply religious man and complex artist who baffled and often enraged his friends and colleagues. Drawing on scores of interviews with those who knew and worked with Vickers, Williams traces his life from boyhood in western Canada, to schooling in Toronto, to his debut at Covent Garden, to his tenure at the Royal Opera House, to his celebrated appearances on the world s major opera stages. She discusses his signature roles, including details of a little-known Otello in South Africa, over-the-edge performances, and stormy battles with conductors and directors. In addition, she details Vickers controversial withdrawal from the Tannhuser opera, his on-going friction with BBC-TV, his conflicted relationship with his native Canada, and his choices in repertory. Williams also illuminates the paradoxes in the world view of a man who might have been a preacher or a prime minister if he had not been blessed with such a remarkable musical talent. This in-depth, well-balanced, and objective biography will stand as the definitive work on one of the world s greatest heroic tenors. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9781555536749

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Book Description Northeastern University Press, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. During his extraordinary career, the now-legendary Canadian tenor Jon Vickers sang the most demanding of operatic roles -- Tristan, Peter Grimes, Otello, Aeneas, Parsifal -- with searing emotional intensity and dramatic interpretation. In this first biography of Vickers, Jeannie Williams provides a captivating and revealing portrait of a very private, deeply religious man and complex artist who baffled and often enraged his friends and colleagues. Drawing on scores of interviews with those who knew and worked with Vickers, Williams traces his life from boyhood in western Canada, to schooling in Toronto, to his debut at Covent Garden, to his tenure at the Royal Opera House, to his celebrated appearances on the world s major opera stages. She discusses his signature roles, including details of a little-known Otello in South Africa, over-the-edge performances, and stormy battles with conductors and directors. In addition, she details Vickers controversial withdrawal from the Tannhuser opera, his on-going friction with BBC-TV, his conflicted relationship with his native Canada, and his choices in repertory. Williams also illuminates the paradoxes in the world view of a man who might have been a preacher or a prime minister if he had not been blessed with such a remarkable musical talent. This in-depth, well-balanced, and objective biography will stand as the definitive work on one of the world s greatest heroic tenors. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9781555536749

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